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“Make sure you pet the cubs so the mother knows you are friendly”
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“Make sure you pet the cubs so the mother knows you are friendly”

“Make sure you pet the cubs so the mother knows you are friendly”

posted August 1 2022

My long-time store manager Mark Moon used to always tell the tourists headed for Alaska that if they see a family of Bears, they should always make sure to pet the cubs so the mother will know they are friendly. Luckily, we never got sued. Delia and I were on South Fork yesterday heading back down the trail when we saw a mother Black Bear and two cubs crossing to our side of the creek.

Mom was already across. This was cub #1

Mom crossed first, and I wasn’t quick enough to get the picture, but I got Cub One and Cub Two as each one crossed. They hadn’t seen us yet and I feared we might surprise them even though I know the Bears around here are all sweetness and light, not always true of Black Bears on the northern tier of their range.

And this was Cub #2.

However, I reserve the right to be afraid of anything in this world, so rather than take Mark’s thoughtful advice, we crossed the creek so we wouldn’t surprise them if they were planning on staying on the trail. We then bushwhacked down canyon for a little while.

We also found a not-very-terrifying Grace’s Warbler family up there

We didn’t see the famed Elegant Trogons on this hike, but we did see the speedy, jet-like White-throated Swifts and also encountered a family of beautiful Grace’s Warblers pestering their parents, one busy parent shown here.

And some of the perennial favorites, Painted Redstarts

We also encountered about four Painted Redstarts, a delightfully flamboyant bird that flashes it’s tail constantly and moves everywhere in a hurry. I always feel triumphant if I get a shot that is remotely in focus.

This Berylline Hummingbird at the Southwestern Research Station was a LifeBird for Delia and me

This was a stakeout, the bird had been seen for weeks coming to a feeder and an Agave. We watched the Agave for an hour or so and got these photos. It made up for our botched stakeout of a Rose-throated Becard in Patagonia where we failed to get the bird and perhaps failed to realize where we should be looking. The Berylline has rusty wings, purple upper tail coverts and rich green upper body and a red bill, which we could slightly see from where we were. That leaves only one US hummer neither of us has seen: The Plain-capped Starthroat.

Here is another shot of the Berylline.

Up a different canyon, we were happy to see Lucifer Hummingbirds had returned

Up at the Ranch back in New Mexico our totem bird the Lucifer Hummingbird was present, Hooray, even though only a tiny few Hummers were at our feeders, a striking contrast to past years when there might be 150 Hummers. Either the migrating hummers haven’t arrived yet, they are all going extinct, or, here’s my hoped-for-explanation, the wonderful monsoon we have had so far allows them to forage on the range and not bother with the stupid hummingbird feeders where there is always a pesky Rufous Hummingbird that tries to play chicken with you (if you are another Hummingbird) at 40 mph. (Hummers have killed each other this way). In Seattle Rufous Hummers are the apple of me eye, down here, not so much.

Checking the sky above: There is danger everywhere

This is a shot of the same Lucifer presumably checking for danger from above.

Hooded Orioles seek out the Human Umbrella.

Hooded Orioles, like Barn Swallows, House Wrens, Barn Owls and Say’s Phoebes among others, seem to seek out places where there is human activity. Our presence may help to keep them safe from some of their predators. Here a male Hooded Oriole that is tending a nest in the carport poses within feet of the house.

Back to AZ again: South Fork was looking even more gorgeous than the recent norm

This year the rains down here started way early, around June 15. Comparing Monsoons seasons is a tricky and a fraught business. Sometimes one canyon will get 5 inches and a canyon two miles away will miss the rain entirely. But from my un-researched and un-expert vantage point, I would venture to say this is the best monsoon season, at least so far, in a decade. Cave Creek is running nicely, all above ground (in dryer years it runs but in places goes underground). Everywhere we looked thinks looked green and verdant.

One great thing about the Chiricahuas: Climbers hate these mountains.

When I first saw the Chiricahuas, I was dumbfounded that I never saw mountain-climbers or rock-climbers foolishly risking their lives on the immense cliffs. “It’s the rock,” I was told. It’s very crumbly. Hooray for that.

It was hot so we jumped in the water at the “Bathtub” on South Fork

Being careful of undertow and rip-currents of course

On the 6h of August we did a 9 mile hike in the heat to Minor Canyon and the homestead of Shorty Miller, reputed to have been a Rustler, well I guess, known to have been a rustler (no relation to the Miller Ranch to our West)

It’s the second time we’ve been on a long hike in the outback of the land and been tracked back to the house by Border Patrol agents. In the first case a couple years ago, three agents found four tracks and knocked on our door to find two of us, Delia and me.. It didn’t occur to me when talking to these pleasant individuals one of whom was an excellent tracker, that they wondered who the other two tracks were. As it happened, the other two tracks belonged to Brian and Darchelle and that hike may have been the last really tough hike Brian (who has run 230 Marathons under his belt but has ALS) ever did. Even if we realized they wanted to see Brian and Darchelle, there is no way we would have roused them, as after a hike in the summer in the Peloncillos any normal person needs to retire to their bed for awhile, especially if you’re in your 8th year of fighting ALS. This time there was also a note of suspicion on their part, a really nice guy, but he hadn’t found or realized that our tracks went up and down from the pass and assumed that our two sets of tracks only went down from the top to the house. Perhaps he was suspicious that two people might have come down and we were hosting them while having never left the house ourselves. The fact that he wasn’t completely satisfied that the shoes we were wearing fit the tracks backs this up, but it was all unspoken and it didn’t occur to me at the time that that is what he may have been thinking. We have never personally have met any Border Patrol agents who didn’t seem like really nice guys. They have a job I wouldn’t want to have to do, and I find it troubling that this recent guy was put out alone on this detail. I wouldn’t hike in the Peloncillos alone myself although our young friends do all the time. For me, I need Delia as my Bodyguard and Lawyer, even though she is trained in neither profession. But we don’t appreciate being suspected of crimes either, and CD Littlefield, who lived at the ranch, and who also got along really well personally with BP agents had many worse encounters. He claimed BP agents threw out the water he had stored strategically for his return on 100-degree days twice and had BP agents draw guns on him twice. In typically West-Texan fashion, when CD saw one of the agents with a gun trained on him, CD said, “You scared the shit out of me!”, to which the Agent said likewise.

Minor Creek was bank-to-bank

6 little waterfalls on the hike were going concerns, some small damsites, some natural

This is at Hidden Falls, on a tributary creek with it’s own little punchbowl

At the top of Rustler Falls approaching Shorty’s homestead

What’s left of Shorty’s homestead. People didn’t kill themselves with comfort back then, they killed themselves other ways

Rustler Falls. Presumably, Shorty built the dam

A Border Patrol Agent found our tracks and followed them two miles back to the house

It’s the second time we’ve been on a long hike in the outback of the land and been tracked back to the house by Border Patrol agents. In the first case a couple years ago, three agents found four tracks and knocked on our door to find two of us, Delia and me. It didn’t occur to me when talking to these pleasant individuals one of whom was an excellent tracker, that they wondered who the other two tracks were. As it happened, the other two tracks belonged to Brian and Darchelle and that hike may have been the last really tough hike Brian (who has run 230 Marathons under his belt but has ALS) ever did. Even if we realized they wanted to see Brian and Darchelle, there is no way we would have roused them, as after a hike in the summer in the Peloncillos any normal person needs to retire to their bed for awhile, especially if you’re in your 8th year of fighting ALS. This time there was also a note of suspicion on their part, a really nice guy, but he hadn’t found or realized that our tracks went up and down from the pass and assumed that our two sets of tracks only went down from the top to the house. Perhaps he was suspicious that two people might have come down and we were hosting them while having never left the house ourselves. The fact that he wasn’t completely satisfied that the shoes we were wearing fit the tracks backs this up, but it was all unspoken and it didn’t occur to me at the time that that is what he may have been thinking. We have never personally have met any Border Patrol agents who didn’t seem like really nice guys. They have a job I wouldn’t want to have to do, and I find it troubling that this recent guy was put out alone on this detail. I wouldn’t hike in the Peloncillos alone myself although our young friends do all the time. For me, I need Delia as my Bodyguard and Lawyer, even though she is trained in neither profession. But we don’t appreciate being suspected of crimes either, and CD Littlefield, who lived at the ranch, and who also got along really well personally with BP agents had many worse encounters. He claimed BP agents threw out the water he had stored strategically for his return on 100-degree days twice and had BP agents draw guns on him twice. In typically West-Texan fashion, when CD saw one of the agents with a gun trained on him, CD said, “You scared the shit out of me!”, to which the Agent said likewise.

A slightly unbelievable Arizona Cardinal:

If I did a painting like this photo, people would think I was just a bad artist!

Oh they already do? Who would ever expect a flying Cardinal to look like this! You would think he would slick his crest back for the duration of the flight! This was an Arizona Cardinal, more strictly speaking a Northern Cardinal, at Patagonia Lake State Park.

You don’t often see a Black-tailed Jackrabbit from the front.

This Black-tailed Jackrabbit, was sitting on the road as we approached.

Here is the more typical view

We were glad to see more Jackrabbits on the range this year. She or he loped off rather lazily, knowing our car was nothing like a Coyote.

Three Bat Researchers came up the canyon to net and study Agave nectar-sipping Bats!

Three Bat researchers came for a visit and set up mist nets for their study of the threatened lesser Long-nosed Bats, which is a slightly large nectar sipping bat. All they caught were were California Bats, which eat Mosquitoes. (and other flying insects.)

Buy only Bat-friendly Tequila!

The tent is to keep the Kissing Bugs out. Mallory, Daniel and Brandy were erudite, kind, cheerful and upbeat. Mallory, who is working on her PhD, answered my hopeful question:: Is the Tequila Industry, which raises thousands of Agaves, creating a win-win for the Bats and people? Sadly the truth is no, as Tequila Agaves are cut down right before they bloom. A program to enlist growers and excite consumers to produce and buy “Bat-friendly Tequila” (5% would be allowed to bloom, and that would be enough to save the Bats that are the best pollinators of Agave in the world, the ones Mallory is studying) has been set up but is not yet thriving.. (They stayed in a tent to avoid Kissing Bugs, which we, at least so far, don’t attempt to avoid)

We were very happy to see a pair of Golden Eagles reappear on the cliffs above the house. Here’s one.

Here they alight to watch the scene below, together, like in the old 1899 hit song Maggie

We were already having a good Hummingbird trip.

On the way in we took the long route to the canyon, detouring throught Patagonia, where we took in the Paton Center right in town. This Violet-crowned Hummingbird is a Paton Center specialty, there appeared to be four or five at least. Females and males are identical.

A day-trip to Paradise Aug 3 was a blast! A White-eared Hummer was a Lifer for Delia

And almost for me, my last US sighting was in1979. It was a continuing visitor at the George Walker House in Paradise..

This shot may not do her justice, but this bird is truly Magnificent regardless of any name-change

We also had Rivoli’s Hummingbirds a the George Walker house. Although this is not a geat shot, this large, long-winged Hummer deserves its old name back, Magnificent Hummingbird. Tis is a female.

The George Walker House in Paradise, Arizona. You can rent it.

Or you can visit during the day, be sure to leave some money in the jar, and admire the many birds that come by.

Nice porch to get lifers from! Jackie, Bo, Howard and Winston

We got some kind of Rain every day for which we are deeply thankful

This is a monsoon cloud. In the foreround is the Miller Ranch, a huge ranch to our west and in the distance the southern foothills of the Chiricahuas. This Aug6, the day we left for Patagonia.

We headed back the way we came–through Patagonia. On the last night a huge rainstorm engulfed Patagonia with a lightshow followed by a drenching all-night rain. The next morning as we left the Stagestop Inn, the best hotel in the land thanks to its amazing population of Barn Swallows, the smell of petricore reminded us of the Amazon after a rain. Wondeful things ensued as we returned to the site of our failure to see the Rose-throated Becards just south of town. We ran into a group of excellent birders and really nice people from Louisiana who helped us get two convincing long glimpses of the female Becard at her huge elaborate nest. Then they pointed us to where to see a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and actually found this lifer for Delia and I, a Ruddy Ground-Dove. It was a two-lifer day, with the smell of petricore stretching from the bootheel and Portal over to Willcox and I think even Tucson. We also picked up other great birds before in Patagonia, including two Mississippi Kites over town the first time we were there, Varied, Painted and Lazuli Buntings, Thick-billed Kingbirds, Common Ground-Dove and Neotropic Cormorant.

Rose-throated Becard (No photo) and a Ruddy Ground-Dove, thanks to the gang from Louisiana

Patagonia was Heaven: Petricore after a huge rain and Barn Swallow everywhere

A night at the Stage Stop Inn in Patagonia, Arizona: An Ecotourism purchase.

The Stage Stop Inn. Going there helps preserve the Creation. Some critters need wild land. Barn Swallows need humans who will continue the milleniums old Human-Barn Swallow chain of friendhip., where the two species loved each other and worked together against large Corvidaceous birds that were a common enemy. Humans have forgotten and tend lately toard indifference or betrayal (Many still love them also). But perhaps 30 families of Barn Swallows call the Stage Stop home. The owner built a business in Seattle for 20 years then sold it and bought the Stage Stop.

People are packing all kinds of things in their carry-on bags these days

We had to get back to our life in Seattle. At the airport, you see people are packing all kinds of strange things in their Carry-ons. Didn’t get to meet and greet this guy, we had to board. As we check the weather stations and weather maps, we see more rain came last night and the night before that. I’m writing on the 8th, and more rain is hitting the whole area tonight. (Tucson has been short-shrifted in the rain department this monsoon). We live for rain down there, and we are used to the pain of rain clouds that fecklessly deliver a trace, or .05, and the pain of hearing drops on the roof start and immediately peter out. That’s not the case for much of the SE AZ SW NM area this year, it seems to be the real deal.. Post Script: It’s the 10th of August now there have been really good rains in Rodeo, NM, and Portal, AZ all four nights since we left.

The day before we left I made this movie, which is called Rain-lover’s rant from the Bootheel: It’s very pro-rain, and I hope it doesn’t feel insensitive to the occasional people who experience too much of a good thing as in Kentucky or South Korea right now. There is also the issue of humans building and living in places they simply shouldn’t. We went to a lecture on flooding once, by flood-expert Larry Kunstler.. He covered many issues in this illuminating lecture and one of the quotes I will always remember is this unexpected one: “Burlington, WA is the most stupidly-situated city in the country.” Why did he say that? One reason is it is built in the old bed of the Skagit River, (The river was dynamited) and at the risk of being teleological, one might say the Skagit might “want to” return to its old bed some day. The other reason he gave is that the watershed above it contains two active volcanoes, the only watershed in the country that can claim this. Active volcanoes can cause sudden snow-melts..

Watch my new movie: Rain-lover’s rant from the Bootheel!

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